No. 1391 4 December 2009

ICRISAT celebrates 37th Annual Day

Dr Kanayo F Nwanze Dr Kanayo F Nwanze, IFAD President, speaks at the Annual Day function.

ICRISAT celebrated its 37th annual day on 1 December at Patancheru by honoring staff members, scientific achievements, partnerships, loyalty and team spirit. Cultural programs added color and gaiety to the celebrations. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) President Kanayo Nwanze was the Chief Guest and former Governing Board Chair Ragnhild Sohlberg was a special invitee.

Going down memory lane, Dr Nwanze revealed that it was at ICRISAT-Patancheru where he nurtured his skills as a biologist. The honor bestowed on him goes to the millions of farmers of the semi-arid tropics of the world, he said.

In his speech, Dr Nwanze revealed that a child dies of hunger every six seconds. He emphasized that this is a wakeup call for renewed investments in agriculture and research. Drawing attention to the miniscule budgetary allocation for agriculture, he explained, “Food security requires constant investment. It cannot be turned off and on like a tap.” He cautioned that food subsidies are not a sustainable alternative to food production.

Dr Dar delivering annual day address Dr Dar delivers his Annual Day address.

Calling for a new Green Revolution in the drylands, he pointed out that the fight against hunger this time must be innovative and knowledge-centric. “ICRISAT’s motto of turning grey into green responds to this. IFAD will continue supporting CGIAR to help smallholder farmers produce better yields by providing better technology and linkages to local markets,” he added.

Highlighting ICRISAT’s achievements in his speech titled “A Decade of Service to the Poor,” Director General William Dar said, “Ten years ago, I came to ICRISAT as your servant leader, a time when the Institute was facing serious challenges. ICRISAT was then reeling from the past, marked by low staff morale, financial challenges, and unusual turnover in its governance and senior management. Today, ICRISAT is a fully transformed and a high performing institution, ready to face the emerging challenges of semi-arid agriculture.”

Dr Kanayo F Nwanze with William Dar Dr Dar honoring the Chief Guest.

Expressing gratitude for the unflinching support from IFAD, Dr Dar said that both ICRISAT and IFAD share the same mission of serving the poor. ICRISAT does research to improve the well-being of the poor of the semi-arid tropics, while IFAD enhances poor peoples’ access to financial services, markets, technology, land and other resources.

Quantifying ICRISAT’s surge over the decade, Dr Dar said, “From $22 million in 2000, our budget has grown to $56 million this year. Among 15 CGIAR Centers, ICRISAT is now number three in terms of budget size. We have also achieved consistent budget surpluses since 2003. Today, we are number one in the CGIAR System in terms of cumulative budget surpluses and earned income, and our reserves have consistently grown since 2000. We are now number three in the CGIAR System in terms of reserves.” Dr Dar emphasized the need for strict adherence to sound financial practices to sustain this development.

Encouraging Team ICRISAT to deal with a rising perfect storm, which is a confluence of various crises, Dr Dar said, “We must therefore team up and enhance our alliances with others in our journey to help the world weather this perfect storm.”

Concluding his speech, the Director General challenged Team ICRISAT, asking if we could do even better in the next ten years. The answer from the team was an emphatic “Yes we can!”

Shyam N Nigam receiving the Doreen Mashler Award Shyam N Nigam receiving the Doreen Mashler Award from Dr Nwanze.

Scientific achievement honors:Shyam N Nigam received the Doreen Mashler Award. Through the Millennium Science Awards, the Institute recognized those who were nominated for the CGIAR Science Awards–Pooja Bhatnagar-Mathur, Promising Young Scientist Award; Outstanding Scientist Award, HD Upadhyaya; Outstanding Scientific Support Team, S Veera Reddy and team; Outstanding Partnership Award KB Saxena and team, and Outstanding Scientific Article, to RK Varshney and team.

Books released: Information Bulletin on Sweet Sorghum; Dynamics and Development Pathways in the Semi-Arid Tropics: Dokur Village Profile-Research Bulletin No.23; and the Genebank Technical Manual. Dr Sohlberg launched ICRISAT’s new website and also a positioning document “Adapting to Climate Change in the Drylands”.

The Outstanding Partnership Awards went to the following scientists: N Seetharama, Director, Directorate of Sorghum Research, Hyderabad;JB Mishra, Directorate of Groundnut Research, Junagadh; N Nadarajan, Director, Indian Institute of Pulses Research, Kanpur; Stephen Dominic Lyimo, Principal Agricultural Research Officer, Selian Agricultural Research Institute, Arusha, Tanzania; Romeo R Quilang, President, Isabela State University, Philippines and Mariano Marcos University, Philippines. Drs Fran Bidinger and Fabrice Sagnard were awarded posthumously for their contributions.

The Resource Mobilizer Awards went to Said N Silim and team (received by CLL Gowda on his behalf) and Cynthia Bantilan and her team.

Cultural activities by the ISH school choir, children of ICRISAT staff and students from the ICRISAT Association for Community Development enthralled the audience. The Shivatandavam solo dance, and skits titled ‘Bus Stop’ and‘ Side effects of research’ enlivened the rest of the afternoon.

Loyalty Day was celebrated on 30 November, with the recognition of those who had completed 5 to 35 years of service with ICRISAT and the presentation of Best Safety Warden Team award. Addressing the gathering Dr Dar dedicated a poem, be a Hero to Someone, to Team ICRISAT and all its champions such as Dr Ragnhild Sohlberg who was the Chief Guest. He expressed gratitude to all those who made ICRISAT what it is today.

Annual Day in pictures

Annual Day in pictures Annual Day in pictures
Annual Day in pictures Annual Day in pictures
Annual Day in pictures Annual Day in pictures

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ICRISAT and IFAD meet the media

ICRISAT and IFAD gave a clarion call for another green revolution while addressing journalists from the local, regional and national media at a press meeting held in Patancheru on 30 November.

ICRISAT and IFAD meet the media The panelists brief the journalists.

Director General Dr William Dar spoke about the impending perfect storm and the projects taken up with IFAD assistance. Dr Kanayo Nwanze explained IFAD’s future projects and the pressing need for investment in agriculture and agricultural research. They called upon national governments to draft polices that would transform agriculture into a successful business for farmers.

Drs Dar and Nwanze spoke about the untapped potential of dryland farming and called for strategies to involve smallholder farmers who feed one third of the world’s population. They also stressed the need for organizing farmers into groups for better access to inputs and market.

Referring to climate change, which is affecting agricultural productivity across the world, the IFAD president told reporters, “Climate change is going to erode the development that took place (in agriculture) in the past two and half decades unless we take required steps and stress on research for more resistant crops.’’

Underscoring the vulnerability of poor women to climate change, both ICRISAT and IFAD called for policies that benefit the rural poor, especially women farmers. “Empower women with suitable technology, and give them access to markets by connecting roads,” they said.

Rex Navarro, Director, Communication office welcomed the journalists and introduced the panelists. He also summarized the salient points made by the panelists and said that ICRISAT considers the media a strategic partner in disseminating information across the globe.

There were animated discussions at the press meeting on the impact of commercialization of agriculture on smallholder farmers. There were also questions about the quantum of IFAD’s financial outlay in the future, the recent opposition to cooperative farming in the state of Andhra Pradesh and the details of the meeting between Dr Nwanze and the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, K Rosaiah.

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DG calls for a comprehensive environment policy

Calling for a comprehensive environment policy on climate change, Director General Dr William Dar said that the policy must include adaptation and mitigation strategies, larger investment in agricultural research, rural infrastructure and better access to markets for smallholder farmers.

Delivering the J Raghotham Reddy Memorial Lecture at Acharya NG Ranga Agriculture University in Rajendranagar on 26 November, Dr Dar said, “The bottom line is to ensure that they (farmers) develop resilient ecosystems, resilient crops, resilient livestock and resilient communities.’’ He also advocated better management of agricultural knowledge, more efficient use of water for agriculture, and better access to credit (micro-finance) and agricultural inputs. These steps would help intensify integrated production systems, diversification and management of natural resources and the protection of biodiversity.

"Control of soil erosion and soil conservation measures, agro forestry and forestry techniques, forest fire management and better town planning can be initiated to blunt the impacts of climate change. Stock-taking of climate information in developing countries to ascertain where the systematic observation needs are most pressing is important. Also, collaboration between national and international providers of climate information and its users, and the awareness about the usefulness of such information among different communities are essential,’’ he stated.

To facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy, Dr Dar said holistic approaches, including the engagement of the private sector, should feature in any national or international deal on climate change. Increasing the effectiveness of rural institutions at the local, national and international levels would be a central concern as they seek to speed up agricultural adaptation, Dr Dar said.

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DG appreciates work on synthetic groundnut

Nalini Mallikarjuna and team
Dr Dar with Nalini Mallikarjuna and team.

On 27 November, Director General Dr William Dar made a special visit to the controlled environment and research facility for a demonstration of new sources of Arachis hypogaea (synthetic groundnuts).

Dr Dar interacted with the staff and enquired about the details of the project. He appreciated the research and asked Dr Nalini Mallikarjuna and her group to continue the good work.


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